I love New York. Since my first visit over thirty years ago, the city has always entranced and beguiled me with its energy, ambition, self-confidence and irrepressible optimism. It is so much more than mere steel and stone: it is a living organism powered by human endeavour and entrepreneurship. Even though I am very familiar with the city, having visited on many occasions and worked there for a time, I am still irrationally excited on the ride in from JFK airport, waiting to catch my first glimpse of that unique and unmistakable skyline. Continue reading “New York State of Mind”
Then why not see if you can identify the fifty cars below from close-up images of their tail lights? They are a mixed bag, some easy, some more difficult. The first reader to Continue reading “Tail Light Teaser”
A brief, incomplete and highly subjective history of pop-up and hidden headlamps.
Ever since the Cord 810 caused a sensation at the New York Motor Show in November 1935 with its staggeringly sleek and futuristic looks, pop-up headlamps have been subliminally associated with high performance, aerodynamic efficiency(1) and technical sophistication. It matters not that many of the cars on which they subsequently featured, for example the 1985 Honda Accord and 1989 Mazda 323F, were otherwise pretty humdrum devices.
The season of enforced merriment is once again upon us and DTW offers an opportunity to test your knowledge of all things automotive. There’s something for everyone – if all else fails, try lateral thinking…
DTW has quite the history concerning car ashtrays; an entire section devoted to nothing but covered in great detail by Richard Herriott. Fascinating regarding detail and engineering, smoking and driving were once considered under a more roseate light. Concurrently, the modern day car’s lighter socket can sometimes be found empowering the tobacco smokers alternative, the vaping machine. However, for the (extremely) well heeled, Rolls-Royce can offer a real world experience, if not, perhaps within the confines of the plush cabin then a geste, al fresco.
Recently released to those whose world revolves around the Spirit of Ecstasy, one can have fitted in one’s boot space the Cellarette – a bespoke whisky and cigar chest. Historically, the Cellarette was used to store bottles of your master’s favourite tipple in something other than a wicker basket within the confines of the motor carriage. Whether stopping to Continue reading “Have A Cigar”
Well, here we are again – another winter of long shadows and dashed hopes. Amid what appears to be the worst festive movie sequel ever, we reach a brief pause in the narrative. A time to make sense of the past twelve months, to marshal our gains and to reflect upon our losses – at least until the storyline sweeps us off our feet and into the immense unknowable once more.
Conducting a highly scientific straw poll at work recently, my enquiries were to the full dozen souls what car they’d buy with a big lottery win. Some required momentarily longer than others to respond but eight replied with “Aston Martin or something,” two preferred properties whilst the remainders spirit didn’t enter the equation.
The 1990 Ford Escort Mk5 was a terrible car. It was designed to be manufactured as cheaply as possible and was woefully under-engineered, nasty to drive and uninspiring to behold. It was rightly lambasted by the motoring press, to the extent that some of the criticism even spilled over into the mainstream media, damaging Ford’s reputation for competency.
A facelift in 1992 attempted to deal with the most egregious faults but achieved little substantive progress, while making the car ugly rather than merely bland. Such was the strength of Ford’s marketing machinery and wealth of its advertising budget, however, that the Escort and its Orion(1) saloon equivalent remained strong sellers, despite the cars’ blatant inadequacy. Continue reading “Striving for Adequacy”
André Citroën and Henry Ford: An unlikely pairing?
The often innovative cars his Quai de Javel factory on the banks of the river Seine produced were noteworthy, as was his unmatched knack of thinking of new and audacious forms of publicity, but André Citroën always kept an eye open for new ideas and methods initiated by other manufacturers as well; notably those from the land of the free and the home of the brave. Over the course of two decades Citroën would Continue reading “When Henry Met André – Part 1”
An impressive opening gambit for the Aston Martin DBX, the company’s first attempt at the ever expanding luxury crossover sector. Made in St. Athan, near Cardiff, Wales: 542bhp, 516 foot pounds of torque from a four litre, twin turbocharged V8, permanent four wheel drive on 22” wheels and available in 42 subtly named hues.
In part one of this little series, I sought to share the thought process arising (inevitably, it seemed to me) from the moral uncertainty surrounding enthusiasm for cars powered by the internal combustion engine in this age of global warming. In part two, we took a trip into a possible future resulting from the current state of affairs. Both articles led to a healthy discussion in the comments and, following part two’s diversion into utopian fiction (that many found to be dystopian), I want to try to provide some sort of conclusion to this story. Can it still end well?
Editor’s note: A version of this piece was originally published on DTW in September 2016.
Marking its debut the year Concorde entered commercial service, the 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda, like the Aerospatiale/BAC supersonic airliner it vaguely resembled, would ultimately embody a future which failed to take flight.
There was no means of placing any form of veneer upon the situation facing Aston Martin in 1975, the Newport Pagnell-based specialist carmaker was facing ruin; falling prey, like so many of their UK and European equivalents to a perfect storm comprised of the spiralling costs of adhering to ever-tightening American safety and emissions regulations, and the stark market contraction stemming from the 1973 oil crisis. Rescued from bankruptcy by an Anglo-American consortium, the Lagonda programme was aimed, not only at providing embattled Aston Martin dealers with something new to offer, but also to help Continue reading “Tomorrow’s World”
From an early age my Christmas wish list contained an Aston Martin. Scale models, obviously – my family were not financial wizards. As time moved on and lascivious tastes deepened, the marque remained a written talisman alongside a diminutive Australian singer from a soap opera – neither sadly entering my world – I cannot have been good that year.
There was no reward for Reliant getting it right at the second attempt.
In the decade before the arrival of the all-conquering Mazda MX-5 in 1989, the choice in European small two-seater roadsters was very limited. The ancient MG Midget and MGB had finally been killed off in 1980, but not before their handling and looks had been comprehensively ruined by US regulations(1). The Triumph Spitfire also died in that year, while the more exclusive Lotus Elan had been pensioned off in 1973(2).
Concerns about the possible outlawing of soft-top cars in the US had also caused delays or cancellations in the development of such models. The Triumph TR7 drophead finally arrived in 1979, almost five years after the launch of the fixed-head coupé. By this time, the TR7 had acquired a grim reputation for build quality and reliability, and both versions were discontinued in 1981 as a consequence of the closure of BL’s Solihull factory.
When designing with straight lines, in essence we have but three angles to play with. Those less than ninety degrees are acute. Above ninety but below one hundred and eighty become obtuse, whilst those exceeding what aficionados of darts call a ton-eighty are deemed reflex. Car designers being flesh and blood (even human, sometimes) curve such values at their will – or not. Human traits often blend those named angles but not in today’s case. This is the story of William Towns (1936-1993) the straight-laced, French curve-avoiding, oft overlooked automotive designer.
Beginning his automotive design career aged eighteen with Rootes Motors, Towns’ early efforts were centred on the less glamorous and more mundane aspects of design work, on items such as seats and door handles. Through time and perseverance, Towns contributed to the Rootes Arrow project, a.k.a. the Hillman Hunter, before an opportunity in 1963 led him to Continue reading “One-Way Towns Of England”
With Marchionne at Fiat’s helm, corners were cut at Lancia. Yet, the company indulged in a pointless, bandwagon-jumping, and failed marketing drive in Second Life.
I thought the gross mismanagement of Lancia at the hands of Fiat had been exhaustively detailed, both here and in other corners of the internet. Recently, though, I spoke with an old friend from my university years, who like me, owns a third-generation Delta. It had been a while since we last spoke, so our Skype call lasted a while, as we talked about all manner of things – from our family lives and our jobs to the things that interested us back then.
One of those things was Linden Lab’s once-overhyped, but now largely forgotten 3D, sandbox-style, virtual world named Second Life (SL for short). As young, wide-eyed PhD candidates looking to explore the capabilities of contemporary virtual reality platforms for collaborative design and simulation, we had both dabbled with it. Seeking to attract investors looking for a quick buck, LL’s founder and CEO Philip Rosedale made extremely bold claims about how SL would Continue reading “Second Failure”
There is a somewhat hackneyed old joke that summarises the colourful history of Aston Martin rather well:
Question: “How do you make a small fortune in the automotive business?”
Answer: “Spend a large fortune on a prestige British luxury car manufacturer.”
Over the company’s 108-year history, Aston Martin has changed ownership ten times and left most former owners, if not bankrupt, then rather poorer for the experience. Such is the allure of the marque name that a succession of wealthy and (mainly) smart and business-savvy individuals (and the Ford Motor Company) have thrown their hat in the ring, thinking that this time, it will be different. Continue reading “Autour du Virage”
Allow me, if you will, dear reader, to take you on a brief sojourn into the future.
The year is 2051 and, as I approach my mid seventies, I hope to be able to retire in a few years and spend more time on my various hobbies. Today is a prelude to that happy prospect, in the form of a paid day off work as part of the European West Central Union sponsored ExperiencedWorkersKeepVITAL! programme and I have arranged a treat for myself in the form of a morning’s participation in a driving day at the Zandvoort racing circuit on the west coast of the Netherlands (not that you get to Continue reading “How To Be a Motoring Enthusiast in the 21st Century – Part 2”
The G-Series transformed Citroën’s Irish market fortunes – albeit not necessarily in the manner intended.
The Citroën GS was a vitally important motor car for the French automaker, marking its first serious post-war offering in the medium (C-segment) class, placing the double chevron into the very heart of the volume car market. Overwhelmingly voted Car of the Year for 1970, the technically and stylistically advanced G-series appeared set for pan-European sales success.
The GS would also prove a defining model for Citroën’s ambitions in the Republic of Ireland, albeit not for reasons Quai de Javel would necessarily care to be reminded of. But before examining this unfortunate episode, let us first Continue reading “Suspended State”
In July 1987, Volkswagen and Ford’s Brazilian and Argentinian divisions created a joint-venture company, AutoLatina. The ownership was split 51% to 49% in Volkswagen’s favour. Volkswagen would manage AutoLatina’s passenger car operation while Ford looked after the commercial vehicles business. Autolatina was established in an attempt to defend both companies’ market share in what was a distressed and shrinking market.
Should you consider the everyday Yaris somewhat tepid, yet find the shape appealing, Toyota can offer you an alternative. And should you choose to shell out the old fashioned way of (well over) twenty thousand pounds for, let’s be honest, a city based shopping car; for a wedge more folding, one could be firmly ensconced in this pocket rocket that will flash past the shops. Unlock your inner rally driver, Gazoo Racing style.
Toyota’s coffers are large enough to not only allow their extensive range, but also to indulge the whims of boss, Akio Toyoda. Himself a competent helmsman, Akio has been known to remove racing attire, don his suit and enter the boardroom to Continue reading “G16E-GTS”
With few exceptions, the American performance car of the sixties was a pretty straightforward beast: a traditional, proven suspension and platform layout, big V8 up front, fat tires and all of it dressed in an imposing body often painted in some of the more vivid colours of the spectrum, with decals and striping to emphasise the point. Simple, effective and to most eyes handsome as well as desirable: why do it any different way?
There were of course alternatives of European origin such as MG, Alfa Romeo and Porsche, but those appealed to a different kind of customer – often one who had experience with them while serving abroad in the military after WW2. Continue reading “The Shark That Swam Against the Tide”
As age creeps ever on, the eyes often need time to adjust to unexpected occurrences. Seen from a good hundred feet, I liked what I saw. The car was glossy black, small, by modern standards but owning its stance. Goodness, it’s a new Toyota; the fourth attempt at the Yaris. And, by George, Akio’s gone and done it – at least on first impressions.
Released August 2020, saw round four of the BigSmall car bucking the trend; smaller, improved upon by degrees. Yaris part three was doing nicely for Toyota. A rising market share, reasonable looks and prices, typically impressive warranty – a customer mainstay. Nothing lasts forever; Yaris 4.0 moved over to the TNGA-B platform.
A seminal car, but not for the reasons anyone might have expected.
The 1990 Ford Escort Mk5 was a car keenly anticipated by the market, as it would be the first all-new model for a decade. Ford’s rather casual attitude to mark numbers meant that the 1986 Mk4 was little more than a competent facelift of the 1980 Mk3. When the latter was launched, its sharp, contemporary styling and switch to front-wheel drive was fêted as a bold move forward for the model. In reality, it flattered somewhat to deceive, as beneath its apparent sophistication was a car that was distinctly ordinary in dynamic terms, with rough engines and a brittle ride. Continue reading “Missing the Marque: Ford Escort Mk5”
The past several years (broadly coinciding with the discovery and eventual contribution to Driven to Write) have been a period of rediscovering my enthusiasm for cars; their history, engineering, aesthetics and the experience of driving them. More recently, however, I have found myself troubled with doubts as to the potential future of such enthusiasm and increasingly, by questions regarding the moral status of our collective hobby.
If the above sounds a little melodramatic, consider the following: Whilst there are questions to which no definitive answer is possible – the value of which lying more in the discussions they prompt, rather than in finding one true solution – such as what constitutes the good life, free will versus determinism and why my smartphone came with two entirely separate SMS apps installed by default, questions relating to the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine are, to most rational persons, not amongst these.
Putting out fires all over the place, Andrew Miles gets his paws wet.
Returning to our fire fighting friends, the equipment size notches up somewhat along with a combination of countries, companies once we add highly flammable flying machines into the equation.
First up, Boughton Engineering of Wolverhampton. Founded in Amersham 1897, their core products revolved around the agricultural and forestry industries, later incorporating larger transport solutions, which included the military. Boughton’s prowess grew as did the chassis required for such operations.
By the 1970s, the arrival of the jumbo jet and easier international travel led to concerns as large as the aircraft themselves had become. Sadly, this was also a time when aeroplanes had an unfortunate tendency to Continue reading “Water Loving Feline”
From Turin to Tamworth, from Minato to Michigan and elsewhere besides, the mid-1990s sports car revival was in full swing. Leading the charge from an emotional and commercial-savvy perspective was Mazda, who just prior to the new decade had perhaps unwittingly created not just a durable global phenomenon, but as the passage of time would illustrate, the default (relatively) inexpensive 2-seat roadster – the MX-5 Miata.
The arrival of the Cortina in September 1962 was a seminal event for Ford of Britain. Here was a light and efficient family car that was designed to be simple and inexpensive, both to build and to run. It offered everything the average motorist and their family needed, and nothing they didn’t. The Cortina exemplified the value engineering approach to design and manufacture that would come to define Ford for the next thirty years.
The Cortina also made the rest of Ford’s UK range suddenly look outdated. This was a particular problem for the Consul Classic and Capri models, which had been launched just a year earlier. Their introduction had been delayed by a couple of years because the Anglia small car was such a runaway success that Ford’s Dagenham plant lacked the capacity to Continue reading “Diminishing Returns”
Prior to Mercedes-Benz rule, AMG was not limited to providing its services to just the products bearing the three-pointed star. A 51% subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz since 1999 and completely taken over and wholly integrated six years later, the company established by Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher (the G stands for Grossaspach, the birthplace of Aufrecht) has for obvious reasons been strongly associated with Mercedes-Benz from the outset.
Considered a mandatory part of a ’70s boy’s upbringing, car spotting for many, held sway over football and girls – for a while. In those formative years anyone could discern that the yellow car 200 feet away was a Cortina. Only the eye of one more nuanced would know the car to be a GXL and therefore worthy of knowledgeable discourse. Replete with such incendiary information, one could hold court, fellow subjects agog, mythical status achieved. Those questioning the omnipotent would face swift, often brutal retribution – indignant children reduced to Continue reading “There Is Only One”